New York 2nd trip

Please Note that this review was written prior to September 11th and the World Trade Centre disaster. I have left it unchanged and hope you will see how much I enjoyed my visit to this remarkable building during my trip. I feel that it is my small tribute to those people who I undoubtedly saw there that day who would have lost their lives in this terrible tragedy.

This is a new way for me and will probably mean that the review will be longer. “Oh God No” I Hear you cry, but yes it will. The reason? … well Rob has blown his money and bought a lap top computer.

So this trip is to New York. And we start as I sit here in the Travel Inn Hotel at Gatwick Airport. It’s nice, clean, easy to find… for anyone but me that is, as I managed to get lost and end up outside Terminal 4 Departures with no idea where to go. But I did find it and checked in. They couldn’t find my reservation but that’s par for the course as with my accent phone calls aimed outside the confines of my hometown variously result in the home made version of the phonetic alphabet being tested to the extreme or my name not showing up, as they put down what they THOUGHT I said.

Oh well off for a meal then to settle down and watch a bit of telly this evening before an early night, as I want to be at the airport as early as possible in the (hopefully not vain) hope of getting an exit row seat.

Well you join me in the departure lounge and I DID IT, I managed not only to get an exit row seat but also a Window one as well. So how did I get here I hear you cry, well and “surprise surprise” I hear regular readers cry I had a few problems. Well come on SUMMER SPECIAL PARKING for South Terminal, where would you go to look for it?? Exactly, I went from the Hotel at North Terminal to the south terminal long stay parking area, as I was told “Match the logo to your booking letter” got there… NO MATCH. The helpful Gent running this car park said ” yea you go to the NORTH TERMINAL and get a bus from there to the SOUTH !” Great British common sense strikes again.

So here I sit in the departure lounge booked in, listening to the fact that some twit seems to be in no rush to get to Montego Bay. And waiting to be called to the departure lounge, which won’t be for a while I think, So Rob is off to buy some Asprin, find a Loo, then read a friends book which I’ve loaded onto this, what must be the biggest “hardback” in travelling history. Speak to ya soon.

Just noticed I have a tendency to write the sections of this review as separate Entry’s, sorry about that, I’ll try and keep this to a minimum but would beg your indulgence as this is the first time I’ve tried writing this way. Anyway I am currently part way across the Atlantic Ocean at about 38000 feet. And have just enjoyed a meal, a few drinks and a movie “Shrek”, about an Ogre, It stars the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz and John Lythgoe, and is one of the new generation of animation that I believe started with Aladdin, in that kids love it and adults basically see a completely different movie. :o) After that I saw “Along came a spider” this stars Morgan Freeman and is a sequel of sorts in that he plays the same character as an earlier film, he plays a cop who is a specialist in serial killers, and in this movie he is semi retired and a kidnapper brings him into a new case. Won’t tell you more of the story as this would spoil it for you but I’ll just say I thought it was a very good movie.






The Broadway Inn is where I’m staying and it is now 7.23 am and I’ve been awake for about 2 hours on and off, so yea you could say that jet lag has kicked in. Well jet lag of sorts, as I seem wide-awake. I’ll let you know as I go through the day if this lasts.



Well first impressions of the city this time, Pace – definitely, Heat this time and Rain MY GOD CAN IT RAIN HERE. I went for a wander yesterday afternoon and got absolutely drenched.

So it was hot and raining so I thought I know I’ll go for a drink and I found a CONNELLYS bar, wandered in sat down and………got soaked again, well I asked for a Bud and when the girl hit the tap she had run out, so foam shot straight out the tap and all over me. Thanks I REALLY needed that :o)

So this first part day was wandering, trying to find a phone that worked, or more to the point an operator that knew how the phones work. I mean I tried about a dozen phones using a phone card and was told that “the call could not be connected”, or that “this phone cannot be used for international calls”. I eventually got through using my hotel phone.

Day 2

So now i’m off for a shower, possibly one of those famous American breakfasts from a diner, and I think I’ll do the bus sights tours as with the forecast not able to guarantee fine days, I think I’ll do it now as they say no rain till this afternoon, so I get to do something I want to do, that won’t involve walking, and in the nice weather, will give details later.

Questions…..Questions……Questions –

  • Why did I go out without any sun tan lotion?
  • Were the tour guides putting on the gruff New Yorker persona for the effect or were some of them really that picky?


I took a bus and boat tour, the open top bus was fun and is a great way to see this city. The driver takes the strain you just sit there and film everything that does or doesn’t move. I did the Downtown loop and hope to do the Uptown later. I also took the ferry to Ellis Island and the statue of Liberty. It really shows that Americans do things right, I mean I get the distinct impression that if they did this type of excursion in the UK that the boat would take the most direct route to it and unload you, but here it sails to the optimum place to take photos from and stays there for a few minutes for people to snap it… Clever.

I didn’t get off at the statue but I did at Ellis Island. Yes Jan, I know you’ve fallen off your chair but I really always wanted to see this place. Very interesting, strange, and a little eerie. To think of the amount of people that went through there and also that it only closed in 1954. And it’s still strangely “quiet” even with the thousands of visitors that visit there every year.

Day 3

Last night I spent a very nice evening in “The Village”, Greenwich that is, with a very pretty lady in the White Horse Inn (This is another place I wanted to visit due to its Welsh Connections) Not that I saw any, but it was where Dylan Thomas spent a lot of his time when in New York.

To get there Vivian insisted on initiating me into the wonder that is the subway. First impression – How the HELL anyone can spend any time there when it is that HOT I’ll never know, okay the trains are air-conditioned but it must be intolerable to wait on that platform for any length of time. And did she let us take a taxi back…No then we took a BUS! COME ON I never take the bus.

But all joking aside I really enjoyed all of the evening. Great company and a great meal. Thank you.

So “Where’s the Theatre” I hear you ask okay it starts tonight. I hope to see either Cabaret or RENT but I may see something completely different. I’ll get back to you…and I saw …… “The Rocky Horror Show”, well I wandered about a bit, couldn’t find a lot of places then surfed to check what shows were on offer and this one came up.

So my day panned out like this I went to the Cinema at the Lowes Theatre on 42 street, this IS a multiplex I mean it has at least 13 screens, and that is full size screens, I know this as I was in number 13 to see AMERICAN PIE 2.

Now I know this may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I loved it, it had some very funny scenes, and I’ll keep to my rule of not trying to relate comedy scenes but let’s just say watch out for: walkie talkies on the CB band, superglue, and Band Camp amongst other parts.

After this I returned to the hotel room changed and basically turned around and went back out for the show, I had booked the tickets using a print out of the page from a great website Playbill online. If you’re a member you can get reductions on certain shows. Sometimes up to 50%.

To the show well to this is a new production featuring at different times various American celebrities in the lead roles. Tonight I saw Dick Cavet as “The Narrator”, and an understudy “Frank” and “Rocky”. Not that this bothered me, as I wouldn’t have known the main cast. Well I’ve seen this show before so I’m not a “virgin” (If you’ve seen the show you know what I mean) as such, although it has progressed so far since I saw a production in Bournemouth about 14 years ago. Standout performances for me were Alice Ripley as “Janet Wise” and Mark Price as “Riff Raff”. The other cast members were well up to the roles but I thought these two really shone in their parts.

One thing I will say this really isn’t a show for children. I mean people did take their kids but I personally would have been embarrassed, for example Dick Cavettt noticed that there was a child in the front row and made a joke about it, saying “aren’t you fed up of explaining parts to your parents”. Well later on Alice had a scene where … well how can I put this politely, during the number “Touch-a-touch-a-touch me” she came to “know” the metal barrier between her and the audience in the biblical sense, and, giving eye contact to members of the audience looked immediately to her left and within 2 feet was the 9 year old boy, well let’s just say I think the line “Oh the cost of Therapy” wasn’t in the script. And add to this the fact she does a “Mrs. Robinson” and goes topless at the end of the number. Means I REALLY think this is not a show for children!

Stand out numbers in the show for me were “Once in a While” (A lovely ballad that could I believe stand in its own right), “The Time warp” and “Touch a touch a touch me”. The interaction between the audience and the cast is one of the major parts of this experience. I mean if you want to just go and sit down and be entertained then this isn’t the show for you. The regulars in the audience put in as much effort as the paid cast, with pertinent (and frequently un-repeatable) lines during the action. An example… well the narrator says something like “And there were dark clouds…” and before he can say his next line the audience shout ” Describe your b**ls Dick” and he continues ” Dark pendulous and black” get it? Also when they sing “there’s a light over at the Frankenstien place” All the audience put flash lights on, and whenever anyone says “Brad” they yell “Asshole” and “Janet” they yell “slut”.

So after this I headed for the PLAYRIGHT TAVERN, which is just around the corner from the Hotel I’m staying at, it’s a “typical” American bar serving food and draught beer. So I had a meal and a few drinks.

Day 4

Next day I went wandering initially, then at the cinema and finally the Theatre. I’ve been really lucky with the weather so I did my bit yesterday; I took my umbrella so of course it didn’t rain. Well not while I was out, the evening was a different matter. The movie I saw? Well it was “RAT RACE” starring: Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Jon Lovitz and Whoopie Goldberg amongst others. It was basically a rip off of “Those Magnificent men in their flying machines” and all those race movies of the past. It was amusing and killed a few hours but not a must see for me. Possibly check it out on video.

Oh one word of advice they really know how to run a cinema here, with the choice of screens, choice of movies, and choice of refreshments and herein lies a story, well I was hungry so I thought I know a hot dog, but I decided on a fried chicken sandwich. They said your ketchup is over here, so little white sachet with red bottle on it and Rob settled down for a meal, ate a bit opened the pack and SQUIRT (strange… ketchup moves slower…. Must be a thinner brand) bite in and HOLY SH*T it was Tabasco Sauce! ¾ of a Large coke later and teeth quietly throbbing in my head I binned the rest.

I’ve told you about the movie so we get to the Theatre and Thanks Nikki I took your advice and took the chance to see something different, and saw “The Full Monty” Well what can I say about the show, the hype said: hysterical (yes in places), heart warming (yes), raunchy (no… well at least not for me). I saw a few understudies, can’t really complain, as I didn’t know there was anyone I would have known in the cast. Would have been nice to have seen Kathleen Freeman who starred in many of Jerry Lewis’s films and most people would have known her as the Nun in the Blues Brothers movies. But unfortunately she was not performing this night.

The story has been transported from the UK to Buffalo New York. But the basic premise is the same, a group of ordinary guys laid off from a steel mill and who decide to put on a show (Strip show that is) to earn some money and to resurrect their self-esteem.

The performers were very good, the story was the same as the movie even to the extent of including some of the classic scenes: The guy in the car, the non-singing non-dancing “cert for the troupe” But for me there show lacked that spark.

I mean the ladies loved it, and some of the performers really deserved an award for their performances but this is a musical, and for me I really didn’t think that the numbers were strong enough. Some better ones were: “Jeanette’s Showbiz number” and the Overture and Entr’acte.

Why these I hear you ask, well the conductor, basically she (and yes it was a woman, the first I can remember seeing in all my Theatre going) Kimberly Grigsby.

Her very energetic conducting bordering on a dance performance in its own right was very entertaining. The only real stand out number for me was “You rule my world” sung by “Dave” John Ellison Conlee, “Harold” Marcus Neville, “Georgie” Jannie Jones and “Vicky ” Emily Skinner.

So summing up…. an okay show not great, and I think that they were a tad optimistic with the flyer they included in the programme, saying “We know now you’ve seen “The Full Monty” you’ll want to come back so we’ve reserved the front 7 rows!”

Well over half way in my holiday my feet are causing problems now, and the one little quibble I have about the States is now starting to niggle, that is the 2-pin plug they have for electricity. One – the thing keeps falling out and secondly – my hair dryer which is a British one runs about ¼ speed, so drying my hair is a real nightmare. And those of you that have met me know what a problem a slow hairdryer can be for me.

Time – 12:19am Place – Hotel Room New York. I have just come back from CABARET at the Famous Studio 54. The production is based on the Donmar Warehouse one directed by Sam Mendes, the new favourite Brit over this side of the pond. Before we get to the show the rest of the day.

I went to Lindy’s for breakfast, this is a legendary place the but of jokes for years, from Groucho Marks to the present really, and what they say is true if you eat the breakfast you won’t want anything else in a hurry, I had the Waffles, sausage and bacon strips, with a coke and the complimentary water.

The food was great, the coke flat, and the waitress nowhere to be seen, when it came to paying.

One other thing … tipping, I’m starting to see how prevalent it is, but when it’s added to the bill before you get to it and THEY choose the amount it still rankles a bit.

I think anyone watching may have been confused though as on the same waffle I had ketchup, butter and syrup. On different sections though, just to see what I preferred, I think the syrup had the edge.

Well I had decided on finding another movie to see and then aiming for the Theatre tonight, but a suggestion was made to me this morning (thanks Dad) to do more New York things i.e. something that couldn’t be done anywhere else. So I decided on a cruise. I headed for the Circle Line dock I had seen on the bus tour I’d taken, and paid my $24 very reasonable I thought. Considering it was 3 hours long. The cruise itself started a good 20 minutes late, as, as we were informed after this length of time, the guide had phoned in sick. But even this was lucky, as I can’t imagine anyone being better than the guy we ended up with.

The tour took us around the island of Manhattan, well most of the way, when we got to the Hudson River the tide was too high so we ended up turning around an re-doing the same side of the Island again. But still an enjoyable and good value trip.

Then I decided to break the habit of a lifetime. I went shopping, well I’d been told that Macey’s was a must do, a place where you can get anything you want…. Well wrong. I went there looking for a coat, and jeans, neither of which they had, I found the staff unhelpful, the design confusing and the stock too “fashionable” for its own good. Although I’m happy to bow to more experienced shoppers on the last part. I found a shop opposite and managed to pick up a few shirts. And then had the nightmare scenario trying to get a taxi on 5th avenue at 5.30, it must have taken me a good 20 odd minutes.

So to the evening, I’d grabbed a meal from a Deli another thing I’d wanted to do, and enjoyed it very much. Chicken cutlets, in a bread role with lettuce and mayonnaise and a beer. So I headed for the Theatre, now I knew where this was as I’d been there 4 times before trying to find out when Brooke Shields was performing. Tonight she did and I must say she was very good.

The show…. Well CABARET is set in Germany at the start of the Third Reich around 1929 / 30. This is definitely another show not for children. Or for that matter the feint hearted. I had seen it before but only as an amateur production, and I really wanted to see a professional version. It is set in the Kit Kat club and the action is driven by the character of Emcee. Who in this production is played by Matt McGrath. Brooke Sheilds plays the role of “Sally Bowles” an English cabaret performer.

The production is put on in a nightclub setting with minimal other scenery, chairs do for a train at the start, etc. But this works, as Studio 54 is a nightclub so for the bulk of the theatre you sit at tables. Or in my case bar stools at the very top. A mistake on my part, as I thought that the “Rush tickets” sold on the day were always the front rows, but here they are the very top. So I needed oxygen by the time I got to my seat.


Stand out numbers for me are always “Maybe This Time” and “Don’t tell Mama” which is why I was holding my breath when first seeing Ms. Shields, as I had seen her on an old re-run of “The Tom Jones show” and to be honest her voice wasn’t that good. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised, I mean okay they did interpret the numbers slightly differently for her voice and “Maybe This Time” didn’t have the belt it out ending I was used to, but her performance (and particularly British accent) was brilliant. And I really enjoyed the show. The guy who played Emcee also deserves singling out as he definitely brought the required menace to the role.

After the show I wandered through Times Square just soaking up the atmosphere, and then back to my hotel.

So we are at Saturday and my last full day in the big apple. So I undertook the last remaining challenge, The American Pancake breakfast.

So it was back to Howard Johnson’s and the bar with the very small stools. And I ordered the Pancakes and Sausages, which came with strawberries, syrup and butter, strange combination but it worked, a lethal combination and in amounts that could have fed a small country.

Well I can eat as anyone who has been behind me in the queue at the Merthyr Tydfil McDonalds will tell you, but this beat me. I managed about ¾’s then had to skulk out hoping no one would notice.

I decided to try and find something else to fill the day so I hailed a cab and asked for the World Trade Centre. To which he said “Okay…. Getting a train? ” and before I could say anything he set off like a rocket muttering about the best way to get to Grand Central Station at that time of day. So after telling him another 5 times

“W O R L D – T R A D E – C E N T R E”

and then switching tack and just saying “big building to get a view from the top of”. He got what I meant and I got there.

There isn’t a great deal I can say about this section of the day, I mean I really enjoyed it, but it is impossible to describe in words the view you get from there, one tip if you do go there then save film when you get to the observatory deck, as there is, weather permitting, an escalator that takes you outside to the roof and the view is better without the windows in the way. Oh and the queues weren’t too bad even on a Saturday morning.

From here is was to take my place in Theatrical History, I had decided to check out “The FANTASTICKS ” Now in its 5th decade, beat that Cameron Mackintosh! :o). It is the very simplistic story of a boy and a girl who fall in love. Their fathers plot to keep them apart, but unbeknownst to the couple, this is only to ensure they get together. As all parents know the best way to get children to do something is to tell them not to.

The cast of 8 perform on a semi-circular ground level area and the seats are tiered upwards from there, now when I booked I asked for a single and was told I could have the front row, great I thought, until I saw how small the theatre was. I mean the view was excellent, the performers do not use microphones; the only problem was if I crossed my legs I had to uncross them for the performers to pass.

Known songs, for me was really only one, “Try to remember” The other songs were for me unremarkable, but the performances outstanding, the weakest being “the boy” Jeremy Ellison-Gladstone, but this was only in that he did not have a belter type of voice. He was very good and acted the part wonderfully. “The Girl” Natasha Harper was as stunning as she was good. One of the actors Bill Weedon definitely rang a bell from somewhere. Probably stand out performance for me was that of “The Narrator” Paul Blankenship, who had the necessary presence for this pivotal role as well as an excellent voice.

So I enjoyed the show, wouldn’t want to see it again, but as a Musical tradition it was one that I enjoyed as opposed to just endured for the sake of it.

After waiting about 25 mins to get a taxi I settled back in the seat… just in time to see firsthand my driver’s audition for NYPD Blue, He did this by turning a corner in the wrong lane, and immediately getting nicked! Resulting in me having to decamp to a different yellow cab.

So eventful trip, but back to the hotel a quick beer, Oh by the way if anyone from the Broadway Inn is reading this, then I hope you found a use for the beers I left you, I mean I would have taken them but I was afraid they’d leak in the planes hold on the way over the Atlantic.

Then to “The Tale of the Allergists Wife”, my chosen show for the evening, it was my chosen show for 2 reasons,

1 – I wanted to try an American stage comedy, and

2 – I knew 2 of the 3 leads from my formative television years in the shows

“Knots Landing” and “Rhoda”, namely Michelle Lee and Valerie Harper, the third lead being Tony Roberts. This is what I imagined American humour to be a large non moving set, Jewish type of humour, I’m not sure why I should imagine American humour to be Jewish but for some reason I did, and I wasn’t disappointed.

The performers were faultless, the story funny, and the view not too bad, I was a little high up and was miffed in that for the extra $30 I had paid I was given a seat 1 row in front of the cheaper seats, making it only 3 rows from the back, so how they could possibly justify, the pricing set up is beyond me and for that matter a number of other people in the same row as me.

After the show I decided on trying another first … a comedy club, well it was only 10:30pm and as I was alone and didn’t feel like bed, I rang and found out where DANGERFIELD’S was, I hailed a cab, easily to my amazement, and headed there.

On the way I caught a glimpse of the Roosevelt where I stayed last December on my first trip to the big apple.

The club itself is small; well it’s very small in relation to the amount of people they fit into it. I was put on a table that in any other place would have been for one, but which already had 3 people around it. It didn’t go down well that I was put in front of them as I blocked the stage, but the head waiter who put me there was scarier than they were so I stayed put.

The comics were very funny, I can’t remember their names as there was no programme, but if you see a female comic who wears a mans suit and sneakers for her act, then she was the compare, also a black guy and a very tall guy with a balding head who specialises in the angry-nutcase style, which he did very well. Finally

I saw an Irish American guy who told us the problems of being “Ultra-Honkey” In that coming from Scottish / Irish ancestors his skin lacked the pigment properties needed to colour in any way.

I didn’t figure out the pricing system of this place as I was told there was no minimum, but a $20 cover, so how I ended up paying $56 for 4 Bud’s I’m not too sure.

Taxi back to Times Square for my last fix of the night time atmosphere, a McDonalds to eat in the hotel and to bed, and the only time since arriving that I was woken up when I wanted to sleep in, with a phone call from my Father, asking if I was ready to leave, which considering it was then 5:48 am and I wasn’t checking out till 12pm, I said “no” and threw the phone.

Last day and the trip home. Well I’m here in Newark Airport. I arrived at 3.30pm for a 7:50pm flight to ensure that I got an exit row seat, only to be told it was a through flight, so they had all gone. So here I sit in extreme trepidation, as the return flight last time was nearly bad enough to ensure I didn’t fly again. I also have work on Tuesday, and badly blistered feet, so not the best.

Summing up well this is a longer review than normal.

The laptop was a good buy.

New York… well, the shows were good, the weather great, the hotel fine for what it was, a budget, very central location. Would I return, well definitely not as soon again. I mean there are other places to see. But I really do love the pace of the place, I couldn’t live there but would love to show it to someone special one day. So who knows when?

Recommendations for people planning to visit – The open top tours as long as you’re not as tall as I am, I mean the overhanging branches along 40% of the uptown loop was a great workout, duck… pop up… snap off a photo, duck… prepare the video camera… straighten up … SMACK Ouch! Miss timed that one.

The cruise was good value at 3hrs even though we did end up doing the same side of the island twice as the tide was too high to go along the Harlem River.

Cabs, well yea a must to get about but really check where you’re going, or more importantly that your driver knows where you’re going.

Greenwich Village was a great place to visit. Well basically New York is so big that you can find a place to do anything you want at any time really, so just visit if you can.

Messages – well to the anorexic Father Christmas look-a-like in the Playright Tavern on my third visit, I don’t think the stool had your name on it and thanks for making me feel so welcome … Not.

Theatres – well if you run out of fiction to perform try explaining how you work out the pricing of the seating you sell.

London versus New York, Well come on you knew there had to be a comparison coming somewhere. I would say, and this doesn’t happen very often, but the UK wins. I mean I’ve visited New York twice now so not claiming to be an expert I would claim the right to make a judgement on what I’ve seen.

Examples … okay. The yanks win on the cleanliness I mean come on they even supply condoms for the toilet seats ;o). In response they loose on the lack of public toilets, I mean I didn’t see any; sure the shops have them but none in the streets.

The shows I would say equal, production standards and the performers are equally professional. But the UK has the edge on selection. On this point I would also say the Broadway mystique for shows if it hasn’t changed should, as I think the West End now leads the way. Purely on the fact that Broadway seems even more, safety minded on the “trying something new front” in that they seem unable to.

The US wins hands down on closing times (or the distinct lack of them) I mean as I said you really could get anything at any time. Prices are comparable. Safety factor – New York has the definite edge or at least the perceived edge. I mean there are hundreds of Police there and they are permanently visible.

And the winning vote. Well London has that indefinable something, New York has a different one but the London one wins for me, I know that doesn’t make sense and I can’t describe it more. And this added to the West End cares cabaret means

London – 2 New York – 1. I’m afraid.

That’s all folks, next concert, a musical Theatre tribute at the Millennium Stadium in October and then another trip to London in November.

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